Novel explores how history can be a fickle judge

Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel “The Stranger’s Child” follows the life – and death – of a poet, and how history remembers him over the following century. Literary critics, relatives and historians come to very different conclusions depending on the era in which they live.

MPR’s Euan Kerr recently met up with Hollinghurst, who admits he’s challenging his readers.

“It’s a very much a book about uncertainties, I think,” Hollinghurst said. “In my earlier books I left very little doubt as to what had gone on between the characters.

“In this book, with all its gaps and mysteries, I hope that the reader too would be as unsure as to just what had gone on between two characters as some of the other characters in the book are. And decades later when they are trying to reconstruct just what might have happened between Cecil and Daphne, or Cecil and George, nobody knows for sure.”

Hollinghurst says as in life, “The Stranger’s Child” contains things that are never fully resolved or understood. He realizes doing this is a risk, but he believes readers will go along with it.

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Alan Hollinghurst

MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

Hearing about Hollinghurst’s novel reminded me of two other books: A.S. Byatt’s “Possession” and Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

Why? Because Hollinghurst is exploring the nature of literary life and criticism (as does A.S. Byatt) while simultaneously testing the agility of his readers – and the structure of the novel -by creating a new world with each chapter (per Italo Calvino).

You can learn more about Hollinghurst’s book by clicking on the audio link below:

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